Cavendish wins Tour of California first stage
Mark Cavendish (L) of Great Britain sprints to victory ahead of 2nd place finisher John Degenkolb of Germany in stage one of the 2014 Amgen Tour of California, in Sacramento, on May 11, 2014 - by Doug Pensinger
Omega Pharma rider Cavendish on Sunday finished the 193.1 kilometer (120 mile) first stage, which started and finished in the California state capital, in four hours, 44 minutes and 17 seconds.
Cavendish admitted the finish was so close he wasn't sure he had won. He grabbed the razor-thin victory ahead of Germany's Degenkolb, with Moreno Hofland of the Netherlands third.
"I've won a sprint by 10 centimeters before and lost a sprint by three, and both of them I knew the outcome," Cavendish said. "This time, I really had no idea who won ... so I'm super-happy."
Slovakia's Peter Sagan, who owns the record for most stage wins in the race with 10, had to settle for fourth place.
Kiel Reijnen was the sole survivor of a late break away, but he was swept up in the last of three laps on a downtown circuit as Cannondale and Omega Pharma took control.
Degenkolb and Cavendish powered to the line side by side, with the Briton getting the win by the width of a tyre.
He didn't allow himself a celebratory smile until the photo confirmed his victory.
The ninth edition of the Tour of California continues on Monday with a 20.1 kilometers individual time trial in Folsom.
Britain's Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour de France champion, finished safely in the pack despite not being content to simply sit in the bunch on stage one.
The Briton's Team Sky put together a bold move with 60 kilometres remaining, which opened out a gap of 45 seconds at one point on the chasing pack.